Michael Yates Crowley may be the only person who’s ever actually seen it. In 2007 the playwright was at Disney World for a conference on life settlements (at the time, he worked for a New York hedge fund). Relaxing in his room one night at the Grand Floridian, looking out his window at the private dinghies and enormous old-timey riverboats that sparkled in the Seven Seas Lagoon, he suddenly noticed a different kind of vessel making its way among them. “It was hard to see it at first, but right in the middle of all those boats—no lights on, basically running silent—was this barge completely covered in trash,” says Crowley. It was Disney’s nightly disposal run, weaving through its larger, more convivial kin on its way towards the dump. There it was, floating right in the middle of all the fun, and no one else knew it was there.
Crowley has a better eye than most for the trash barges floating dark and unnoticed through the otherwise-winsomely-twinkling river of our American life. In shows like Righteous Money, The Ted Haggard Monologues, and Song of a Convalescent Ayn Rand Giving Thanks to the Godhead (In the Lydian Mode), he carries out a startlingly comic vivisection of the needs, beliefs, and contradictions that define us, exposing the heart that lies beating beneath the brassy exterior our modern American life. His work has toured in Scotland, Germany and the United States, and this summer will be workshopped at the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and D.C.’s Kennedy Center. He is currently in the playwriting program at The Juilliard School. //Patrick Barrett